Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Few Thoughts. . . .

In light of the explosion that was Jacqueline Howett yesterday, I feel the need to comment on a few things. In case you missed it, you should go here

Warning: it's ugly.

In a nutshell, Ms. Howett's book was reviewed by Big Al over at Big Al's Books and Pals. Al had nice things to say, overall. The problem? Grammatical errors. Ms. Howett was subsequently offended by said review, and decided to lash out irrationally at Al, which culminated in her telling everyone to "Eff off."

Okay, so here's the root of the problem. We have a self-published (or indie) author who can't handle criticism. Writers: it's NEVER okay to respond to negative reviews. We all get them. Focus on the positive and move on. The link to this outburst was posted on Kindleboards, Twitter, and Facebook within a matter of hours. (I'd actually love to know how many hits Al got on that post.) 

The comments from the readers, however, were nothing to be proud of, either. Yes, there are serious grammatical issues with her writing, yes Ms. Howett needs an attitude adjustment, but sometimes I feel we forget that there are real people on the other end of these computer screens. I'm in no way condoning Ms. Howett's behavior, but I'm not condoning some of the comments made about her, either.

Something else happened, too, though. And this upsets me more than any negative review: people are using this as a way to "prove" that Indie writers are somehow inferior to the authors who are traditionally published. I am both, and I am seeing significantly more success as an Indie than I ever did as a traditional writer. 

I generally try to avoid the haters, anyway, but just when I thought that the world was becoming more accepting of Indie authors, there were comments posted of this nature: "this is exactly why I don't read Indie books" or "this is why I don't review self-published authors." And then, of course, the Indies fight back because we don't want to be lumped into a category spurred by one writer's unprofessional behavior.

I know that not all Indie writers are created equal. That's what sampling is for. You read a chapter or two, and if it's not for you, move on. Eventually those writers are going to fall to the bottom (and this isn't only for self-published authors; the fall can happen much faster in the "traditional" world). This forces the writer to either call it quits, or to continue to hone his/her craft and put out a better product.

It sounds like Ms. Howett had an okay story. Good grammar can be learned. It just takes effort. 

In the meantime, Indie publishing is not just for "writers who can't make it" in the real world. I'm not naïve enough to believe that every story uploaded as an ebook is worthy of being read, but there are some of us who take pride in the work we do. I read Cross My Heart from beginning to end dozens of times. I printed out thousands of pages. I listened to it at least three times. I did one round of edits that focused solely on punctuation. I put out the best product I possibly could. That doesn't mean it's perfect, but indie publishing isn't something I rushed into because it's the "cool" thing to do right now. I'm serious about my writing and I'm hoping for a long and prosperous virtual shelf life.

I guess what I'm saying is judge an Indie by his sample. A story is a story, and a reader a reader. Don't give up on us because of a few bad seeds.


P.S. Big Al, always the perfect gentleman, has shut off comments to the initial post. Eventually this will blow over, but I doubt Ms. Howett will ever be able to publish under her current name again. The internet never forgets.